tinfoiltennis: A woman standing on a beach, holding a model ship and looking away from the viewer (✎ just look at that sunset)
✎ Fel's Creative Journal ([personal profile] tinfoiltennis) wrote2011-01-21 12:37 pm

✎ chapterfic - hetalia/ebz - it was not meant that we should voyage far [8/?]

Title: It was not meant that we should voyage far. [8/?]
Fandom: Axis Powers Hetalia/Echo Bazaar
Characters: Every nation ever at one point or another. This part: Australia, England, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Belgium.
Rating: PG-13 for this chapter.
Summary: An Echo Bazaar crossover AU. Fallen London: once capital of the British Empire, now home of the Bazaar, a mile underground and a boat ride away from Hell itself. Deep. Dark. Expensive. Marvellous. Here you can find everything from immortality, to unnervingly good mushroom wine.

Or so the stories go.

But stories can rarely be trusted, and all the wildest stories in the world couldn’t have prepared Alfred and Matthew Jones for what they would find when they descended into the fallen city on a journey that would lead them right into the heart of a rebellion against the Masters of the Bazaar themselves…
Word Count: This part: 2879
Notes: Once again, the continuation of the long haul that started as my NaNo project for last year. :'> The title is from an HP Lovecraft quote, “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
Warnings: General warnings: A crossover with a (very addictive) online game, a lot of speculation and elaboration on my part on the universe of that game, human!AU, the occasional bit of 1800s sensibilities, and later on in the fic, a lot of OCs. :’> This chapter: NaNo quality writing, a non-canon Australia and slightly choppy divisions between chapters, but I couldn’t work out a better way to slice things up.

✎ ✎ ✎

As a rule, Terra didn’t like to make much of a habit of being worried. Being worried meant that you were wasting valuable time and energy that could be spent on doing much more productive things, like wrestling the lads in the street that so much as looked at you funny, or arm-wrestling the Clay Men down in the pubs at the docks, or conspiring with Connor to come up with more varied and interesting ways of playing mildly annoying pranks on Arthur. Not that she didn’t like the captain – in his own bad-tempered, emotionally stunted way, he somehow had a way of making all of his crew like him, if only a little – but it was just plain fun to wind him up and see his face go all red like that. Besides, growing up in an urchin gang had taught her that there were always plenty of things to be worried about at any moment of the day. It was a lot more difficult, and therefore a lot more useful, to be cheerful all the time, which was why she tried to be. After all, she reasoned, no sense in adding to the gloom down in the old city, right? They had enough of that stuff hanging around as it was!

But despite her self-imposed code that wasn’t really even a code at all, she couldn’t help being worried now. It had been a while now since Zhi had come back to the ship without Arthur anywhere in sight, and he’d refused to answer any of Terra, Connor or even Emma’s questions about their captain’s whereabouts until they’d helped him stow the traded cargo he’d come back with down below in one of the secret compartments. It was only then that he’d turned to them with a troubled expression, and that had been enough of a warning sign in and of itself. Zhi wasn’t emotionless, not by a long shot, but he wasn’t prone to being anything but business-like when they were working either, even on the occasions when they’d come under attack by pirates or a particularly unscrupulous rival ship. It was his focus that often held the rest of the crew, who were altogether much more impulsive, together during a tense moment. He hadn’t even panicked the one time that Terra had almost been dragged to the bottom of the zee by a particularly vicious and persistent group of Drownies while trying to recover some smuggled cargo that had been dumped a little way from the shore – he’d just calmly picked them off and done his bit. It was only afterwards, when she was safe and laughing about it, that he’d come to her and admitted that he’d been scared for her. So seeing Zhi outwardly worrying about whatever had happened to Arthur was simply unsettling.

Terra frowned as she swung her legs back and forth, sat atop her usual perch while she strained her eyes for any sign of their captain. Zhi had said that he’d left the pub seemingly following a small group who’d been doing business at around the same time they’d planned to meet their own contact, and that something about them – Zhi hadn’t been sure what – had really shaken him up. Terra ran the conversation through her head again, trying to see if she could figure anything out. Connor had gone oddly quiet when he’d heard that the group Arthur had followed had included some devils, and quickly excused himself with a troubled frown on his face. Did all of this have something to do with Arthur’s dislike of the Brass Embassy or something? It was well-known that he couldn’t abide anything to do with Hell, but it was equally obvious to anyone who knew him that this didn’t have anything to do with the Church, either. Terra had often speculated to herself about what could have happened to make him hate them so much, coming up with ever wilder and more fantastical stories, but in the end, she’d long ago decided not to ask him. Arthur wasn’t related to her by blood, but he was as good as an older brother to her, the same as all the rest of his family. So as much as she was dying to know, she didn’t want to open up old wounds by prying somewhere she wasn’t wanted. Whatever had happened, though, she hoped that Arthur hadn’t done anything too stupid. It was fun to tease him mercilessly whenever he did something that went against his own rules – which was something that happened a lot – but she didn’t want him to get hurt because of it.

“Any sign of the idiot?”

She jumped, startled out of her thoughts, and turned to find Connor scrambling up to join her, a flask of what was probably whiskey in his hand. She shook her head.

“Nope, nothin’ yet. Ya think that maybe he’s just fallen down a ditch somewhere?”

“If he has, I’ll kill him for makin’ me worry for nothin’,” Connor said darkly, taking a swig from his flask. He held it out to Terra, and she grinned.

“Ta mate, don’t mind if I do,” she said as she took it from him. She took a swig of the contents and gagged. “Crikey, what the heck did you put in this thing?” she coughed, feeling her throat burning. “That’s not just whiskey in there, bloody oath it’s not!”

“Nah, ‘course not,” Connor grinned, snickering a bit at her reaction. “I put a bit of rum and vodka in there too.”

She stared at him. “Where’d ya manage to get vodka from down here?” He smirked.

“My sister’s got connections. I just take advantage of them.” He stared off into the night, frowning. “How long have we got left until morning?”

She shrugged. “Search me, mate. They don’t teach ya how to tell time in the urchin-gangs. Still hours, I reckon.”

“Well, he better bloody well hurry up, or our sister’ll kill come out here and find him just so she can kill him as well for being an eejit.”

“He’ll be right, mate,” she said reassuringly, not mentioning how worried she was herself. “Ya know Arthur, he’s always doin’ stuff that’s thick as a plank and comin’ out of it fine.”

“Aye, I know, but he’s still me brother.” Connor sighed and squinted back out into the darkness of the island. A second later, he suddenly sat up straighter and leaned forward, almost dropping his flask into the water below. “Hang on, what’s that?”

Terra’s head whipped round to see what he was pointing at. Still a fair distance away from the ship, but getting closer every second, was a distinctly human-looking shape. Her spirits rose. “Looks like a person to me,” she told him, a relieved smile spreading across her face. “S’probably him, yeah?”

“Maybe,” Connor said doubtfully, but he sounded just as relieved as she felt. She sprang to her feet, cupped her hands around her mouth, and yelled. “Oi, Captain! If that’s you, where the hell have ya been, ya daft boofhead?”

“Dead subtle, Terra,” Connor said with a small laugh. She grinned down at him and stuck her tongue out.

“Who cares about subtle? No one ever got anythin’ done that way!” she retorted, hopping down from her perch. “Race ya down there to see if it really is him!” She didn’t even wait for him to get up and follow her, racing down the gangplank towards the swiftly approaching figure. There was no mistaking that stride – it was Arthur, alright, and that thought had just run through her head when she came close enough to catch a glimpse of his face and launched herself forwards to tackle him into a rib-crushing bearhug, almost knocking him clean off his feet.

“Ow! Terra, what the bloody hell –” he spluttered, half of the wind knocked out of him by her assault. Yep. That was definitely Arthur.

“You’re back!” she grinned at him. “Zhi made it sound like ya were gonna be eaten by monsters or somethin’ the way he was talkin’. What happened out there?”

“Let go of me,” he said sharply, completely ignoring her question as he tried to push her off. Startled by the abruptness, which was unusual even for him, she let him do it, leaving go without even putting up a fight. He didn’t even pause for breath before he started striding towards the ship again, his jaw set tightly. Then Terra’s brain kicked back in again, and she turned on her heel to follow him, reaching out to catch his sleeve. He shrugged her off again and quickened his pace, and Terra scowled, finally losing her temper.

“Oi! Don’t just ignore me!” she shouted. “We were worried about ya, so least ya can do is tell us what happened! S’only the decent thin’ after runnin’ off like that and makin’ us wait so long, ain’t it?”

“I don’t have time to tell you now,” he said snippily, striding up the gangplank and straight past the rest of the crew without even turning around or acknowledging their presence. “Scratch that, we don’t have time. Get ready to leave, I want to be under way in five minutes with no arguments.”

“Five minutes?” Connor interrupted, a heavy scowl on his face. “None of us are ready for that, we thought we’d be here ‘till at least tomorrow –”

“Don’t argue with me!” Arthur barked, whirling so suddenly that all four crew members jumped. “It’s not a case of wanting to, it’s a case of needing to, so all of you had better get busy now so that we can get out of here as soon as possible!”

“Not ‘till ya tell us what happened!” Terra insisted, her hands on her hips. “Ya ain’t ever left us for hours and then not explained nothin’ before, so why start now?”

“We don’t have time for this!” Arthur snapped back. “I gave you an order, so stop talking back and just bloody well do as I say!”

“Terra’s right,” Connor frowned, standing his ground next to the blonde girl. “You might be my captain, Arthur, but you’re me brother first, and I want to know what’s got you so spooked.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Arthur snarled, turning again and heading for the wheel of the ship, “just hang it all and do it, alright! You’ll get your sodding story as soon as we’ve put a decent amount of distance between us and this island and not a moment before, and after that I’ll have to bloody well figure out our next move, won’t I?”

“Next move for what?” Emma demanded, tossing her head impatiently as she ran to draw up the gangplank and untie the ship from its moorings. “Arthur, you haven’t told us anything, just what have you done that you need us to run so quickly?”

“Something very stupid, probably,” Zhi muttered dryly to himself with a frown, just loud enough for Terra to be able to hear him. She looked at him, puzzled, then back up at Arthur, who was now firing up the ship’s engine as if his life depended on it. Zhi glanced her way and caught her confused gaze. “Terra, get down to the engine room, we need to keep her fed if we want to get out as fast as he wants.”

“What sort of very stupid?” she asked loudly, not moving for the moment. She was determined not to start moving until she’d been given an answer, not when Arthur was looking like he was running like all of Hell was after him!

Wait… all of Hell…

“The sort of stupid where I may have inadvertently picked a massive fight with the Brass Embassy and a group of spirifers by smashing open a good deal of their stock, alright?” Arthur shouted down at her furiously – unless he’d suddenly developed the ability to read minds, he must have heard her. She gaped up at him, her mouth wide in shock. Had he really just said what she thought he’d said? She was vaguely aware of Connor swearing loudly somewhere and Emma looking at Arthur as if he’d finally snapped and lost his mind. Arthur glared down at her. “Well, don’t just stand there, Terra!” he shouted, and his voice startled her into moving, her feet rushing to obey his commands. “Get down to the engine room and do the job I pay you for before those bastards start coming after us!”

✎ ✎ ✎

Of course I know that it was a stupid thing to do. As plans or ideas go, it was probably the most stupid thing anyone’s done in London either before the Fall or after it, so you don’t have to tell me that. But I don’t regret it. Not what I did, at any rate. I just shouldn’t have been thick enough to get caught by them. If I hadn’t been caught, then maybe the entire mess that somehow seemed to spiral out of it wouldn’t have happened. Or maybe it would have happened later on anyway no matter what I did.

That’s the problem with “what ifs” and “maybes”. You never know if it would really have been different or not, which is why there’s absolutely no point in thinking that way. There’s enough bloody problems to deal with in the present without thinking about ones that aren’t even relevant anymore. What’s done is done, and that’s all there is to it. If I was ever going to change what I did that night, it might be for the sake of what happened almost immediately after because of it. But I couldn’t just leave things down there the way they were, not after seeing it with my own eyes.

I’m going to admit it right now; my motives for messing with those bloody wankers and their sodding soul trade weren’t entirely altruistic. Of course I think the whole thing’s disgusting, and you wouldn’t catch me touching it with a barge pole whether it meant something to me personally or not, but disgusting things happen in London every day. That’s just the sort of city it is.

The difference between that and the soul trade is that not every disgusting thing in London has affected your mam.

The official figures reckon that eleven per cent of people in London have lost their souls in some way. I don’t know how they managed to come up with that number, and to be frank they probably just made the damn thing up. I mean, how exactly are you meant to find out something like that, question everyone in the whole bloody city to see if they’ve lost their souls? Whether they made it up or not, though, I’m willing to bet that it’s at least that many people, if not more.

Mam was one of those people. It happened when I was too young to remember it, so I don’t know if she sold it or had it stolen from her or what, but however it happened, she was never the same as she’d been beforehand. My sister says that she was cheerful back when she and my older brothers were younger, but as for myself, I only remember her being sad and far away, like there was some important part of her missing. I suppose her soul got sold to Hell at some point and is still there right now. That’s where every soul ends up down here in the end. Either way, her body followed the rest of her a little while after Peter was born, and that was the end of that. I suppose that means I must have been about ten at the time, not that age really matters.

So there you are, that’s my reason for doing what I did, and frankly I don’t give a rat’s arse about whether it was petty or selfish or whatever else you might care to call it. Us Fallen Londoners might be more blasé than people on the surface about a lot of things, but you still don’t mess with someone’s mother and get away with it. As a matter of fact, the same would go for any of my family; we might not like each other the entire time, but we’re the only things that any of us really have down here.

Which is why, even if I don’t regret smashing open all of those bottles and giving those souls a chance to get free… I do somewhat regret what came out of it for my brothers and sister. At the time I was so convinced that the Brass Embassy would come after my crew first that it didn’t even occur to me that they’d go after my family as a way to get back at me, not until it was almost too late for me to warn them. I suppose that makes it my mistake. Thank whatever it is that’s out there that no one was really hurt from it, but that pub was our home and my sister’s pride and joy.

… If I hadn’t been thick enough to let them get sight of my face that night, then perhaps…